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The Real Danger of Defining People as Muslim

I’m tired of the media framing both sides of a story around whether or not the people involved are Muslim. There are 1.6 Billion Muslims (22% of World population); 2.6 Million in the United States; nearly 2.9 Million in the United Kingdom and 399 Thousand Muslims in Australia.

We live in a diverse World with a complicated social, legal and political landscape. Defining people on the basis of religion, in this instance as Muslim, is as generic as defining them as male, or blue eyed, or mono-browed, or candy eaters. A single attribute is not what defines a complex human being. And yet the news stories persist that push the word Muslim as a primary emphasis.

Think about what defines you as a human being. You might be a parent, a sibling, a son or daughter; you might have a philosophy or religious cultural background; or own a car, enjoy jazz and be a hedonistic swinging greengrocer. So many things make up each complex person (and through that complexity, culture) that it’s almost naive to keep hammering the single term Muslim.

I hope that makes sense because journalists, people supposedly strong at language and communication, storytellers by profession, should realise that Muslim is merely a repeatable datapoint; a broad brush stroke to sensationalise the mundane. When they write over and over that some protagonist is Muslim they may as well be writing that the protagonist is a damn good cook or watches football on weekends. Their religion is often superfluous to the story; but critical to the rhetoric.

The real danger of the generic Muslim hammered repeatedly into the public psych through the professional media is that it dehumanises 1.6 Billion human beings. Unknown groups of people become The Other. The enemy. Like Reds Under the Bed. The Hun. The Yellow Peril.

We look back at the World War 2 Japanese internment in the United States with disgust; while we push down similar political roads with the same bigoted arguments.

It’s easy to use a term like Muslim to take the face away from individuals. It lets us forget they are employees and mothers and children and politicians. It allows us to make unpleasant decisions and refuse help when they’re in need.

As an Australian in a land of a mere 23 million with 399 thousand Muslim brothers and sisters… all I can say to the media is shame. The religion of a person is one tiny facet of a nuanced intelligent human being. And somehow, with professional laziness, our media have failed to make that story real.

I don’t want to reclaim Australia. I want to reclaim some sense of human decency that made being Australian respectable in the eyes of the World. Our media and political protagonists need to stop describing complex individuals and large groups of perfectly law abiding people under that generic dehumanising umbrella term, Muslim.

We could easily become the nationalist generations reviled by our grandchildren for crimes most of us don’t even think we’re capable of committing.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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